Summer was only a day old when E. coli O157:H7 contamination brought the first large ground beef recall of the season.

Routine microbiological sampling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) returned test results that were positive for E. coli O157.

With those results, California-based South Gate Meat Co. recalled 35,000 pounds of ground beef for possible E. coli O157 contamination.

Included in the South Gate recall are:

-20-, 30- and 40-pound bulk packages of “SOUTH GATE MEAT CO. GROUND BEEF.”

-30-, 40-, and 50-pound bulk packages of “SOUTH GATE MEAT CO. COARSE GROUND BEEF.”

-10- and 20-pound packages of “SOUTH GATE MEAT CO. GROUND BEEF PATTIES.”

No illnesses have been associated with the recall.

Each recalled package bears establishment number “EST. 6217” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

South Gate produced the ground beef between the dates of June 7, 2010 and June 21, 2010, and shipped packages to restaurants in the Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif. area.

In a statement, FSIS said it routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers (including restaurants) of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.

The first large recall of ground beef contaminated by E. coli O157 is far from being the largest of the year.   Fort Worth-based Beltex Corp on April 21 recalled 135,500 pounds of E. coli-contaminated beef trim and on March 2 Asheboro, NC-based Randolph Packing Co. Inc. recalled 96,000 pounds of beef laced with E. coli O157.

There were actually two recalls for E. coli O157 contamination on June 22.  

The South Gate recall followed the much smaller recall of 3,700 pounds by Crown I Enterprises of Bayshore, NY.

So far, there have been a half dozen recalls of E. coli-contaminated beef this year.  Summer months, when beef consumption is up, are often peak months for E. coli contamination.